Get free help, tips and tricks from ‘MakeUseOf’

It never ceases to amaze me how much reliable and quality help is available on the Internet. One of my favorite resources for tips, tricks, cheat sheets and apps is the Web site at www.makeuseof.com. Hosted in the U.K. but with an international staff, MakeUseOf has established a reputation of excellence in terms of tips and tricks to improve our cyber lives, regardless of what operating system we choose or devices we own. Windows, Android, Linux, Apple OS and other operating systems are covered, as well as hints and help for smart devices and phones, tablets, laptops, netbooks, desktops, and other digital platforms.

The front page of MakeUseOf.com, which I review on a daily basis, shows the latest articles posted, as well as a listing of the most popular articles referenced. Founded six years ago this month, MakeUseOf has 450,000 active subscribers and 15 million page views each month. MakeUseOf is ranked as one of the top blogs on the Web and listed as one of the top 1,000 Web sites by Amazon’s Alexa. The heart of the MakeUseOf site is the collection of articles that it has posted; with about 10 article summaries per page, starting on the front page of the Web site, there are 1,393 pages of article summaries, with each summary linking to the full article! As I type this, the most recent articles on the front page include such diverse items as 3 Tools To Unleash Your Mac OS X Menu Bar, 10 Free MP3 Albums To Download (Sunday special, every Sunday), Why I’m Done With Windows (Commentary), Cool Websites and Tools, Cool Tech Deals of the Week, and Create Your Very Own Operating System With Linux From Scratch.

While a comprehensive collection of nearly 14,000 catalogued and indexed articles is a wealth of useful information, these articles make up but one small part of the MakeUseOf Web site. Moving the cursor over the “How To & TIPS” part of the menu bar on the Web site opens a wide choice of options; here is where operating system help can be selected, browser tips covering all of the major and most of the minor Internet browsers can be found, along with Facebook and Twitter help, Wordpress and blogging assistance, online music help, security information, gaming, hardware and gadget information, and a variety of other interesting topics. Being personally interested in cyber security issues, I clicked on the “Security” link on the pull-down “How To & TIPS” menu, where the latest consumer-level security articles were posted. Among the latest articles posted was an updated story about the 450,000 Yahoo passwords that were compromised by hackers and posted online, an update on the FBI pulling the plug on Internet servers that it had been running to mitigate the impact of the DNSChanger malware (see my April 27 column in The Examiner), security risks on the Pinterest social media service, Trojans attacking Android and iOS devices, and a frightening prediction from Trend Micro that warns of a massive malware assault on Android devices: “Trend Micro expects to find 138,000 malware samples in the fourth quarter of 2012 – up dramatically from 5,000 at the start of 2012.” Other contemporary security columns include articles on gaming security and online scams.

Under the “Best of Apps” banner is a directory of the best applications available, as determined by the MakeUseOf staff and broad community of contributors. The listing of categories of “Best APPS” is large and includes the best Web sites, as well as the best software, applications, and plug-ins for all of the major operating systems, portable devices (including smartphones and tablets), browser extensions and add-ons, Wordpress plug-ins, portable applications (most run from a USB flash drive), and Linux distribution files. In this lengthy list, there is literally something for everyone.

With the widespread and increasing utilization of digital technology, it is inevitable that all of us will likely need some type of technical help or assistance; while there are many online sources of this technical help, including manufacturers’ or publishers’ Web sites, MakeUseOf has compiled an impressive collection of articles in its “Ask Tech Help” section. Since I have an Android Smartphone, I decided to explore some of the more recent Android tech support issues, and I found several of use to me. In each of the tech support categories, the protocol is for someone to post a question, and then there may both expert and community responses. Only registered users can post tech support questions on MakeUseOf, but registration is fast and free. MakeUseOf recognizes the users’ registration on Facebook and other social media Web sites, which can be used to access all of the features and downloads on MakeUseOf; for those without social media membership, or those who prefer to register directly, they may do so directly from any page on the site.

I am not too proud to say that sometimes I need help with some of the most commonly used applications, and MakeUseOf offers about 75 full-length guides and about three dozen cheat sheets. The full-length guides are available for free to registered users (password required, and is provided free to registered users). The free downloadable guides are available in the universal PDF format ,which can be downloaded or viewed online, or in ePub format, which can be viewed on most e-readers. Kindle users will have to convert the ePub file to MOBI format in order to read it for free on the Kindle, or it can be purchased directly from Amazon for download. One of the guides that I use frequently is the 30-page “Office 2010: Ultimate Tips and Tricks,” which is exactly what the title says. Other guides include comprehensive guides to Windows Phones, Photoshop, Chrome, iPad, LinkedIn, social media marketing, Google+, Android, Ubuntu, a complete guide to malware removal, guides to backup and restore, and many other useful (and free) complete guides.

The free MakeUseOf cheat sheets are mostly one or two pages in length, and consist of keyboard shortcuts, hints and other tips that may make applications faster to use and more enjoyable for the user. I regularly use several of these cheat sheets in some of the adult education classes that I teach, and have taught entire classes using only the appropriate cheat sheets as my instructional text. I routinely use several of the cheat sheets myself, which I store on my desktop in PDF format.

Some of us occasionally need a little light humor when online, and the “Geeky Fun” section might meet that need. Geeky Fun has two primary sections: pictures and videos. There are enough funny computer and technology related pictures and images to satisfy anyone’s funny bone, as there are a dozen funny pictures on a page, and there are 233 pages of funny images (about 2,800 images)! For those who like funny videos, Geeky Fun also has videos. For entertainment value, these images and videos are a fun way to burn many hours of online time.

If you would like to keep up with the latest materials, MakeUseOf offers a customized free e-mail subscription of user selectable topics including a daily newsletter, articles, tech support answers, and the newest “Geeky Fun” images and videos. With all of its extensive free collection of articles, tech support assistance, cheat sheets, guides and humorous content, it would be easy for any user to become a regular on the MakeUseOf Web site. Anyone who visits the site and explores its offerings will comprehend why it is a part of my daily online ritual.

Listen to Ira Wilsker’s weekly radio show on Mondays from 6-7 p.m. on KLVI 560AM.

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